President Trump said last week that “federal drug prosecutions have gone down in recent years. We’re going to be bringing them up and bringing them up rapidly. At the end of 2016, there were 23 percent fewer than in 2011. So they looked at this scourge and they let it go by, and we’re not letting it go by.” Trump not so subtly tried to pin the blame on the Obama administration. These stats don’t tell you much about opioids, says the Washington Post’s Fact Checker. To fairly compare what happened in the Obama administration, go back to 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year. From fiscal 2008 to 2016, drug prosecutions dropped 15 percent.
The jury is still out on whether Trump can improve on Obama’s numbers. Last month, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University said that drug prosecutions have continued to decline during the first five months of the Trump administration, so that “fewer drug offenders were federally prosecuted over the past 12 months than at any time during the last quarter century.” The Post concludes, “This is a good example of data being used incorrectly. Federal prosecutions have gone down since 2011, but that does not indicate that the Obama administration ignored the opioid epidemic. The number cited by Trump was the result of a decline in marijuana prosecutions and a change in policy to focus on bigger, more important cases. Moreover, there is not enough detail in the data to show whether opioid prosecutions declined, as Trump suggested.”